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Forsyth commissioners holding another public hearing on upgrading billboards

One more public hearing will be held before Forsyth County commissioners decide new rules for replacing billboards.

Commissioners voted 5-0 to continue an ongoing moratorium on the acceptance of upgrade and conversion applications for billboard-type signs to be upgraded to electronic message boards or LED signs to Aug. 18 and, in another item, approved a public hearing for replacing sings at the commission’s July 6 regular meeting. 

County Attorney Ken Jarrard also discussed changes to the county’s ordinances to allow a company to upgrade signs if other signs are taken down. Currently, such signs are considered legal non-conforming, meaning signs there before the change are allowed but upgrades or new signs are not.  

“If you want to upgrade to an electronic message board or LED billboard and keep the sign at the site where the static or tri-vision board has already existed, you have to take down two billboards,” Jarrard said.

The change would mean that two traditional billboards would be taken down and one of the locations could receive a new sign.

New signs cannot be higher than the ones they are replacing, and the sign face can be no greater than 400 square feet unless facing Ga. 400, which means they can reach up to 672 square feet.

Another change has been proposed that to add a new sign to a location that has never had one previously, four static signs must be taken down and the new sign will only be allowed in commercial or industrial property and must be approved by commissioners for a conditional use permit.

Jarrard said talking to billboard owners, the change to a new location was more popular even if it meant taking away more signs.

The moratorium was originally approved in November and will be lifted early if the new standards are adopted. 

A public hearing was held to discuss the extension of the moratorium, and Chairman Todd Levent requested to go over all changes since there was not a hearing on the later item.

During the public hearing, county resident Kirk Wintersteen, who has voiced opposition to billboards at previous meetings, spoke in favor of the moratorium and against the changes.

“These signs are public nuisances, and when I first heard that we were going to be discussing this issue, I was hoping we were going to come back with the conclusion we were not going to allow any more conversions,” he said. “The billboard industry is proposing new electronic billboards at new locations, and our citizens don’t want these new signs. This proposal is completely unacceptable.”